From where? Morals.

by AK - Jeff 23 Replies latest jw friends

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff

    There is great debate regarding the matter of morals/ethics, and this particularly true whenever there is interaction between religiously driven portions of a culture, and those who maintain no religious opinion or even subscribe to atheism. That cultural clash occurs often on this forum and others like it.

    Believers in God often attribute moral choices with godliness. Yet, among billions who have lived without any attachment to God in the particular sense that is often considered the driving influence [Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or other organized religion] there have always been men and women whose 'moral character' is above reproach, even when measured with a black/white index of religious thought.

    Morality holds an arbitrary position among mankind. Depending on where you live, what time period, and the basic influences of that time and place, you might be considered moral or immoral in life choices. Certain matters have always been taken to be 'immoral' by nearly all humans- taking of human life by murder [and that definition changes under venue or time], treason against the community in which one resides, deviance that causes harm to others. Certain actions, judged by community at large as 'immoral' carry no harmful aspect in the sense of personal harm to either the individual who chooses to act that way or outwardly to the community itself. Some of these 'morals' have been seemingly influenced primarily by the religious community that holds sway. But perhaps not. Some evolutionary supporters accept that similar moral stands might have accrued from the resultant shortfall of some behavior to the community at large. For instance, while believers in God lay claim to homosexual union being wrong because it runs against their Holy Writ, some evolutionist hold that early human morals that discouraged such behavior may have arisen from a much more pressing need to populate the region and expand and protect the community at large. Homosexual unions do not result in children that can carry on the needs and desires of the community or to care for the parents. With growing affluence many communities relax this view as it no longer protects the community from the inherent 'dangers' of underpopulation. Parents no longer are required to have many children to shoulder the burden of caring for them in old age - other modern means of support have largely supplanted that need. Yet the community may hold to the religious influence for some time before social evolution allows them to release the moral chains and for the community to respond in a secular fashion.

    Morals carry with them a great deal of subjectivity, and are generally not very objective. The same community that will uniformly condemn murder [though that community may be well divided on the punishment that should be meted], will quite likely allow, or even relish, violent killing of humans in seeking acquisition of resources or property. At times this action is done in the very name of religion that condemns violence domestically. The Christian and Jewish Bible is replete with examples of believers willingly raping the land and it's people under command of God to do so. Such action is largely the same today - with each side calling on it's God or the same God to grant them victory. War heroes are often the subject of adoration for their population, while far less violent members of the society within are condemned to die for similar actions done within the population of the community. Again, base protection of the society microcosm.

    Not to point up the Bible specifically, but this book is filled with mixed moral lessons. Within a few pages we can find disgust and anguish over David having sex with a married woman, and then find adulation and joyful bliss as the nation celebrates his having taken thousands of lives in battle. We find the Holy One of Israel incensed because a priest reaches out and holds the Holy Ark from falling, while that same God is willing to slaughter and order the slaughter of 'young men and old men and virgins and children' in imperialistic strikes to take land from those who have resided there for hundreds of years.

    Now, many of us, find ourselves outside religion, but we might deal with complex emotions regarding our personal ethics. We question the origin of them, the purpose of them, and some have rejected them outright. It might be noted that 'morals' generally promote good effect, no matter the source to which they are fairly attributed. Community, religion, profession, family, personal experience all influence the shades of morals for us. They provide an order to our lives, no matter our views of the world in general. Most of us will retain much of what we were 'morally' though the reasons have changed. We may have thrown off the shackles of religion, but still feel a deep commitment to 'our standards'. Or perhaps some have moved into another religious community due to the strong influence toward morality that is there provided. For each it is a slightly [or greater] dynamic.

    Isn't the mind a wonderful and mysterious thing?


  • VoidEater

    From where?

    My morality comes from observing my impact on others. Having an in-born empathy for the plight of others, it just makes sense how I should treat them.

    I didn't need a religious book to tell me about this. However, having read history and philosophy to some degree, this approach seems to result in satisfaction in life and positive culture.

    For the less obvious parts of my life, there are professional ethics - codes of behavior the organizations of which I am a part publishes. These have been built from long term observation and analysis of how people interact, and the results that come about.

  • wobble

    From where , Morals ? is a difficult question to answer, but you make many good points as usual in your essay, AK-Jeff, I call it an essay to elevate it above a mere post.

    I think a lot of morality is imposed, what society thinks restrains people from doing what they would gladly do otherwise.

    Take for example the matter of smoking,from being anathema in public places it is now proscribed within the home, and rightly so in my opinion,unless you live alone. but 20 pr 30 years ago people smoked without thought in all public places ,including restaurants, now they refrain even within their own home, because public opinion has swayed them.

    Then you have morality imposed by religious or political groups.

    The problem is that such morality does not come from within the person. hence when a member of a terrorist group, or an officer in the German SS is asked ( or ordered) to commit a terrible act, he or she does it, because they have been told it is the "right " thing to do.

    A far greater morality comes "naturally" to some people, from within, and they will not go against it , for to do so would deny what they were, they would have to sell their soul. Such morality rarely relies on a Book like the Bible or the Quran to define it, and certainly does not rely on what other humans may say.

    Sadly it is a very rare commodity.



  • PSacramento

    Morality is society driven, what is viewed as immoral in one socieity is viewed as moral in another, polygamy, cannabalisim, homosexuality, allowing women to vote

  • Perry
    there have always been men and women whose 'moral character' is above reproach, even when measured with a black/white index of religious thought.

    There has? Can you name some of them?

  • BurnTheShips

    Morals have the same source as everything else.

    It's up to you to decide what that ultimate source is.


  • PSacramento

    This is basically a question of what came first, morals or a belief in God(s) that lead to a creation of morals.

  • AK - Jeff
    AK - Jeff
    There has? Can you name some of them?

    Obviously there is no list. I can provide an extensive list of theists who are immoral though. Give me any church roll.


  • Perry

    As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: - Rom 3: 10

    No one is truly good.

  • cofty

    Hi, interesting post Jeff. I agree with Voideater, we all understand what causes pain and suffering to others - avoiding those things is the basis of morality. You are right to point out the capricious ethics of the bible.

    "a population of apes found it advantageous to regulate their activity to promote cooperation, and voila, here we are, apes who say that rape is a bad thing" - PZ Myers

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